It’s true that even the most body positive people have days where their body image isn’t so great. Your body image is what you think you look like to others, and it is based on both social expectations and personal experiences. Rather than trying to ignore these negative feelings, I encourage you to step into them so you can understand them better and take steps to feel better in your skin! Here are my top 5 suggestions for what to do when you are having a bad body image day:
Question the Discomfort
Is it really that you are uncomfortable with what you look like, or is it more about how your body feels? If you’ve ever struggled with body image, it’s a tricky thing to distinguish between at times. For example, if you feel uncomfortable because you are bloated, you may feel unhappy with the way your body looks because of that discomfort. Alternatively, your body might be in working order (digesting well, balanced intuitive eating diet, etc.) and you may still feel unhappy with the way you look.
This could be because you feel ashamed or pressured to measure up to the stereotypically ideal body. When you are struggling with poor body image, make sure you address the actual issue at play. Is it that you need to take a social media break or unfollow triggering accounts because you feel pressured to look a certain way? Or is it that your body is going through something physically, and it feels uncomfortable, which is affecting your mental state? Sometimes we have to let our bodies find their equilibrium, and it’s best to listen to what they need, both mentally and physically.
Avoid Body Checking
This is a hard habit to break if you’ve ever struggled with body image. I am a body image activist and expert author, and I still find myself falling back into these old rituals from time to time. I have to consciously remind myself that looking in the mirror at my perceived “flaws” will not fix the way I am feeling. When we struggle with our body image, we find ourselves seeking validation and sometimes think we will get it from looking in the mirror or standing on a scale. This can make the feelings worse, especially if your body is physically reacting to hormones or having typical digestion symptoms.
If you aren’t likely to have a good reaction to your image during these times, it’s best to dodge triggers that will make you pick your body apart. Avoid mirrors and reflective glass if you’re feeling especially sensitive to these kinds of negative feelings. Your appearance is not the most important part of who you are. Distract yourself from body checking by filling your days with doing things that makes you happy!
When you find that you’re in a state of body negativity, it’s better to remain neutral than force yourself to love the way you look or, conversely, to hate it. This is a time to break out the positive affirmations, especially those of the non-physical variety. You can also remind yourself of the ways your body biologically functions for you, like breathing and moving. You can still be body positive, knowing that all bodies are worthy of love, respect and they are all beautiful and not feel connected to those things with your body at any given moment.
It is important to know that your body is good despite what you look like and that your appearance does not determine your value. If you are working to have a positive relationship with your body, know that bad body image days don’t last. If that doesn’t work, ask yourself WHO benefits from your negative thoughts? I choose to remind myself that body image pressure exists because diet companies profit off of my body insecurity, when I’m having a bad body image moment.
Wear Comfortable Clothes!
When we feel uncomfortable in our clothes, we are more likely to reach into those negative feelings and also feel uncomfortable in our bodies. When I struggle with my body image, I feel worse when I’m wearing tight clothing. Whether your discomfort is related to a physical response, your body is having (like bloating) or if it’s because of weight gain, know that your size is just a number. Dress for the body you have, not the body you once had or wish you could have. Motivating yourself with smaller clothes is never a good idea because it only makes you feel ashamed of where your body currently stands. Wearing too-small clothes can actually restrict you from breathing correctly and can increase anxiety levels as a result. Not to mention, tight clothes can affect your blood circulation, and cause skin irritations and infections. If that’s not a good reason to buy the correct size, I don’t know what else is!
There is nothing better for your body image than treating your whole self with the love and respect you need. Whatever self-care looks like to you is what you need to be doing. For me, self-care is ordering pizza, having a cocktail, reading a book, or bingeing some TV. For others, it might be exercise, journaling, shopping, chatting with a friend or therapist, or even masturbating (stress release!). Self-care is anything that you can do to improve your well-being.
When you have a bad body image day, remember to talk to yourself with kindness and compassion. It helps to talk to yourself as if you are speaking to someone you love!